Overcoming Obstacles Interview Series

Meet Former Gymnast and Disability Advocate Sang Lan

 

Sang Lan achieved excellence in gymnastics at a young age. She was one of China’s strongest vaulters winning the 1991 Zhejiang Province Championships and placing second  at the 1995 Chinese Nationals. In 1998, during a routine warm-up vault at the Goodwill Games, Sang landed on her head and sustained a complete cervical SCI. Sang remained in New York City for almost a year, receiving rehabilitation at our Spinal Cord Program at Mount Sinai Hospital. Twenty years later, she is a college graduate, a mother, a news media figure, and a advocate for the Chinese disability community. This past month we were fortunate to reconnect with Sang and talk about her life post-injury.
What do you most remember about your time at Mount Sinai Rehab?
“I was in Mount Sinai rehabilitation for about 10 months in 1998. That was the luckiest thing that had happen in my life even though I was facing a lot of adversity at the time. At Mount Sinai, I met with Dr. Kristjan T. Ragnarsson, my attending doctor, and many enthusiastic therapists and nurses. This is not only the place where I started my new life, but also the place that led me to understand the preciousness of life. It gave me a solid foundation for becoming a wife and mother. Therefore, my life in Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center was one of my best and deepest memories.”
Immediately following rehab, how were you able to transition back into the community?
“Increasing my confidence. I tried to be healthier and more positive. In the meantime, I also actively participate in community activities, I think it was very important.”
What type of Advocacy work are you involved in?
“I am an advocate for people with disabilities in China. I focus on our rights to have a barrier free society including in education and protection for retired athletes in China.”
What are you passionate about now?
After injury, I became the Ambassador for Beijing’s bidding for 2008 Olympics. I joined in a lot of charitable events related to physical education and people with disabilities. In 2002, I majored in broadcast journalism in School of Journalism and Communication in Peking University, I graduated in 2007.  Afterwards, became the host of my own show, Sang Lan Olympics 2008 on Star TV.  I am currently the Vice President in the Chinese Sports Committee and an advocate for improving conditions and protecting rights for athletes.  
You seem to have a positive outlook post injury, what advice would you give to others who are recently injured on transitioning back into the community?
I hope they can understand that they didn’t lose everything because they are still alive! In the meantime, they need to keep a positive attitude and strive keep fighting and believe that they can overcome. Also, Keep smiling. Not only will it make everyone around you happier and hopeful, but it also provides confidence within yourself to face the future. Nothing is more important than life and we all need to treasure that. Many people feel depressed and think that they have lost everything, however, the truth is that they still can be happier through hard work. The key is to not give up, instead manage your life and make it more colorful and wonderful!